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Roane hinges hopes on BEP formula revision

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By Damon Lawrence

The task force appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to study the state’s Basic Education Program had its first meeting on March 24 in Nashville.

The BEP is the state’s funding formula for public schools.

Roane County Executive Ron Woody, who uncovered what he believes are some anomalies with the formula, attended the meeting.

“We wanted to make sure we were at the table, or at least near the table, so we could understand the decisions that are to be made and may have some input on some of those decisions,” Woody said. “We are talking about million-dollar decisions here that could impact Roane County.”

Roane County Schools is experiencing financial problems, which school officials have attributed to the BEP formula and declining enrollment.

Woody said the public wasn’t allowed to address the task force, and Roane County wasn’t mentioned during the meeting.

“There was no systems mentioned at all,” he said. “Now some of the issues that Roane County has were discussed because it’s some of the same issues that other systems have.”

The discussion sparked several questions that the task force may look at over the next several months.

“Of the 45 components in the BEP formula, are they still adequate and are they being properly funded?” Woody said. “Should there be a change in fiscal capacity, so it’s not at a county level, but at a system level? That’s one of the big arguments that we’ve had for a while.”

The BEP was last revised in 2007. The task force is to make recommendations to Haslam by the end of the year. Woody said it’s important that Roane County keep abreast of what’s going on.

“It is our goal to have a Roane County representative at future task force meetings, whether that be the county executive, our staff or someone from the Board of Education and their staff,” Woody said.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is chair of the 12-member task force.

Other members include state Rep. Harry Brooks, Tennessee County Services Association Executive Director David Connor, state Sen. Delores Gresham, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Chris Henson, Tennessee Municipal League research analyst Kevin Krushenski and Larry Ridings with Tennessee School Systems for Equity.